Disappointment over Australia Day damp squib leads to call for annual celebration
Sunbury may get its own annual Australia Day event following a request by Cllr Trevor Dance to Hume City Councillors. However, support for the event – and for the council to raise the Australian flag every 26 January – was not unanimous with Cllr Jarrod Bell and Mayor Naim Kurt voting against.
Speaking at a meeting of the full council on Monday 12 February, Cllr Dance asked that council recognise 26 January as being Australia Day, that it be reflected in all council communications, and that the Australian flag be raised on council-owned flag poles to commemorate the day.
Cllr Dance said: “Australia Day is our national day to celebrate this country, and being Australian. This past Australia Day there was no formal celebration in Sunbury and surrounds.
“I asked myself ‘why not?’, as it is a Gazetted national holiday to celebrate and recognise all that is Australian.
“It is a legal holiday. But Hume Council has been progressively removing any reference to this day. Why has this occurred?”
“Why is Australia Day close to being totally banished at Hume City Council when there has not even been a decision by council to do so?” said Cllr Dance.
“We recognise Christmas, Melbourne Cup Day, AFL Day, Easter and so on…But why not our national day? It’s really outrageous that we do not. The council even acknowledged the Luna New Year last week – but not Australia Day…What’s gone wrong?”
Cllr Dance also pointed to the Australian flag that was anonymously raised on a Sunbury roundabout on 26 January.
“It was pulled down by a mystery Vic Road crew who turned up that day,” he said. “We have five main flag poles in Sunbury and not one of them had the Australian flag up.
“You won’t see anywhere in the world where the national day is buried because some minorities want this to happen. The same minorities that are trying to change our country every day, and our way of life.”
At this point, Cllr Jack Medcraft called for a point of order saying he took offence “…at the insinuation that indigenous people are trying to change the way we conduct our lives – that’s not on. I’d like that withdrawn”.
In declining Cllr Medcaft’s request, Cllr Dance said: “I won’t be withdrawing because I said ‘minorities’, I made no reference to indigenous people whatsoever.”
Cllr Medcraft then spoke in support of the motion.
However, Cllr Bell opposed it saying he didn’t think 26 January should be Australia’s national holiday.
“It is quite clearly a day that causes significant harm, hurt, and distress to a significant portion of our community,” said Cllr Bell.
“I drove past the Sunbury Global Learning Centre to our citizenship ceremony on Australia Day this year and I looked to my right, and I saw the Australian flag flying quite highly.”
Turning to Cllr Dance’s request for a council-backed Australia Day event in Sunbury, Cllr Bell said: “There is no other public holiday in the Australian calendar that Hume holds specific events for. This would be unique in our civic calendar.”
The majority of councillors voted in favour of Cllr Dance’s motion (two opposed: Cllr Bell and Mayor Kurt) to have council recognise 26 January as Australia Day, and to raise the Australian flag on key council-owned flag poles across the city. Also that council prepare a report on the options available to running an Australia Day Celebration event in Sunbury (and other Hume City locations) for all of the community to attend.